4 ways to save money on fuel road tripping in New Zealand

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4x Tips to save money on fuel in New Zealand

Petrol in New Zealand is expensive compared to Australia and the United States. The best prices are around $2.00 per litre for regular 91 octane fuel on the North Island. It’s not uncommon to find prices anywhere between $2.17 and $2.25 per litre in regional centres and don’t be surprised in small, remote areas to see prices over $2.50 per litre, especially on the South Island.

There are a few ways to save some dollars on fuel, the most obvious ones rely on loyalty discounts connected to supermarkets, but there are some other ways to keep more dollars in your wallet.

If you’ve got more tips to save money on fuel in New Zealand, let me know in the comments below!

1. Pick an economical vehicle to cut your fuel costs

It’s an often overlooked factor, but if you are hiring a car, 4WD or camper van, it can have a significant influence on your fuel consumption and subsequent cost.

If you can, get a diesel vehicle, especially if it’s a camper van or 4WD. That is going to give you the most significant immediate saving since diesel hovers around the $1.50 per litre price point. Top that off with the increased fuel efficiency that you can typically get with a diesel, and it will save you money.

Our economical little Mazda 2 at the unmanned Allied service station in Te Araroa
Our fuel-efficient little Mazda 2 at the unmanned Allied service station in Te Araroa

If you can’t get a diesel, look for an economical petrol car, this means an electric vehicle, a hybrid, or a small car. These vehicles will all be more efficient than a large car or petrol 4WD. Try looking on a rental car comparison site such as Auto Europe to quickly see if different rental companies have smaller or more efficient options available. If you are travelling with a camper van, good for you, you are saving money on accommodation costs. The trade-off though is if you can’t get a diesel, petrol camper vans tend to be absolute fuel guzzlers, and you can’t do much about it. If you can, pick one that retains the original vehicle shape and doesn’t have any add-ons that create extra wind-resistance. That will give you back some of your fuel efficiency. If you need a high-top van and can’t get a diesel, then make sure you refer to my next tip, drive efficiently.

2. Drive efficiently and use less fuel

New Zealand is a land of rolling hills and soaring mountains. This means that roads outside of major centres tend to have lots of bends, especially regional roads. A LOT of bends. There are probably more corners on New Zealand roads than people in the country. The speed limit outside of towns is typically 100km/h, but trying to achieve that speed consistently is going to see you burning through fuel rapidly. Not to mention, it’s just dangerous to try and stick to 100km/h with all the bends. Then, of course, there are the frequent wash-outs, one lane bridges and partially closed roads.

Bends and a wash out on the Old World Highway in New Zealand
Bends and a wash out on the Old World Highway in New Zealand

Get to know your vehicle, how it handles, how it accelerates. If you can smooth out your acceleration and not push it too hard out of the many, many bends you encounter, it will save you a lot of money by reducing your fuel consumption. Take your time up the hills as well and just sit where the vehicle is comfortable sitting without revving too hard. You will probably have people sitting behind you wanting to go faster, but in two weeks we personally witnessed two cars driven by locals run off the road after going around bends at high speed, including this one that almost hit us on the way. If you feel pushed by cars behind you, just remember, you are potentially saving lives by slowing people down 🙂

3. Fill up at unmanned service stations to save money

Many service stations in New Zealand offer pay-at-pump service, however, the unmanned ones tend to be cheaper than others. Less than 100 metres apart, you can typically save between 4c and 10c per litre on fuel by purchasing at an unmanned service station compared to a manned one.

There are three large operators I’m aware of that run unmanned stations. The largest operator seems to be Allied Petroleum. The second largest seems to be Gull, and then the third is Pak’n’Save/New World.

Paying for fuel at the Allied unmanned service station in Te Araroa
Paying for fuel at the Allied unmanned service station in Te Araroa

Allied and Gull both operate some manned service stations as well, particularly Gull. Make sure to look for the 24-hour unmanned stations to find the lowest prices. Gull refer to their unmanned stations as “Gull Drive-Thru”. The newer ones will typically look like a concrete slab with one or more fuel bowsers and a pay station in addition to the pay-at-pump options. There are, however, some stations that are converted from older manned ones and still have a building present.

Gull Drive-Thru Service Station in Bethlehem, Tauranga
Gull Drive-Thru Service Station in Bethlehem, Tauranga

Pak’n’Save and New World are slightly different. They are not stand alone, so you will only find them at some Pak’n’Save and New World supermarkets. While they are unmanned, their prices are typically comparable to manned service stations. To get cheaper fuel here, you have to spend enough money at the local Pak’n’Save or New World to get a fuel voucher. Typically, a $40 grocery shop will give you 6c per litre off fuel. The other caveat is that if the supermarket has a service station on site, these vouchers are only valid for the service station at that supermarket. If they don’t have their own service station you will get a Fuel Up voucher discussed in the loyalty programs section below. So keep in mind that if you get a voucher at a store that has a service station onsite, you must use it there.

One thing to be aware of when using unmanned service stations is that they require a credit/debit card or local New Zealand EFTPOS card. These stations do not accept cash, and a card pre-authorisation is needed before you can fill up. The pre-authorisation amount is usually $150. Foreign Visa/Mastercard debit cards can work. However, my experience has been hit and miss. I typically need to have a balance of at least $300 on my debit card before the pre-authorisation is accepted. In my experience with an Australian credit card or debit card, the pre-authorisation usually gets released within 24 hours, and the final charge then appears on the card statement. If you are a foreign traveller and don’t have a credit card then make sure to maintain a decent balance on your debit card (eg travel money cards like Qantas Money) so that the pre-authorisation goes through. Otherwise, this may not be an option for you.

4. Fuel savings with loyalty programs

There are a number of loyalty programs in New Zealand, generally associated with supermarkets, that can earn you discounts on fuel. You can’t join these programs from overseas, but once you are in New Zealand, you can easily pick up a free membership card for some of them and get started. Others require a New Zealand address and so may not be for you.

Mobil Smiles fuel savings

Mobil Smiles is the only program not connected to a supermarket, and in my opinion, is the best one for maximising your fuel discounts. Head to any Mobil service station and ask at the counter for a Mobil Smiles card.

These cards will give you an instant discount at the pump without registration. At the time of writing, spend $40 or more on fuel, and it will give you an instant 6c per litre discount up to 100 litres.

Matt using Mobil Pay At Pump with a Mobil Smiles card
Matt using Mobil Pay At Pump with a Mobil Smiles card

Each purchase at a Mobil service station will also earn Smiles points on your card. To redeem these points for more discounts, you have to register the card. You do need to have a New Zealand address for registration, but if you do happen to have one you can use, then you can begin redeeming your points. 300 Smiles points are redeemable for $5 off, and 500 Smiles points for $10 off. The typical point earning rate is 1 point per dollar on regular fuels and 1.5 points per dollar on premium fuels. There are often promotions for bonus points per dollar when you fill up at Mobil, so it doesn’t take long to earn enough for your first Smiles reward redemption.

Countdown AA One Card SmartFuel discount

Countdown Supermarket (Aussie readers will recognise their logo as Countdown is Woolworths in New Zealand) and AA have teamed up to offer the One card. You can grab one of these at any Countdown supermarket, and you can use it without registering.

The Countdown AA One Card
The Countdown AA One Card

AA provides an instant 6c per litre discount up to 50 litres on fuel purchases of $40 or more at Caltex and BP service stations when you swipe your One card with AA Smartfuel. Shopping at Countdown can earn you an additional fuel discount of 3c per litre (for a total of 9c per litre) if you spend $100 or more in store over one or more shops in a week, or an additional discount of 6c per litre if you spend $200 or more in a week.

To earn the extra fuel discount, you must register your card. A New Zealand address is required for registration, but they do also offer a traveller registration. You cannot register as a traveller online though, you have to call the registrations number to do so.

Also of note, you receive One Club discounts on a wide variety of selected products in store at Countdown when you swipe your card, so it’s also worth getting one for that.

Fuel Up savings dockets

Fuel Up is a partnership between New World supermarkets and Z service stations. It also includes some Pak’n’Save supermarkets. When you make an eligible purchase at participating New World and Pak’n’Save supermarkets (any that don’t have service stations on site), you will receive a Fuel Up voucher with your receipt for 6c per litre off fuel at Z service stations.

A Z Service Station in Bethlehem, Tauranga
A Z Service Station in Bethlehem, Tauranga

Eligible purchases vary depending on current promotions at the store where you are shopping. Usually it is purchases of $40 or more, however, at the time of writing there is a $1 promo at most New World stores which only requires a $1 purchase to receive a Fuel Up voucher.

There is no membership or card required to receive these vouchers, just an eligible purchase in a store making this one of the easiest to get, but also one of the most limited since your supermarket spend only gets you one discount.

New World Club Card fuel discounts

The New World Club Card is their equivalent of Countdown’s One Card. It gives you an instant 6c per litre discount on fuel at Z service stations. This card will also give you discounts on select products in store. The caveat though is that you must have a New Zealand address to receive your card. That makes this one impractical for most foreign travellers to New Zealand.

A New World Supermarket in Masterton
A New World Supermarket in Masterton

Fly Buys fuel discounts

Fly Buys in New Zealand is easily confused with the Australian Fly Buys loyalty program. They are very different, and the cards are not interchangeable. Fly Buys New Zealand is a loyalty program in partnership with a wide range of businesses, including New World supermarkets and Z service stations.

Swiping a Fly Buys card when you fill up at Z service stations will give you an instant 6c per litre discount as well as earning Fly Buys points you can use for further savings.

Fly Buys requires a New Zealand address to receive your card, so this is another one you can only get if you have a New Zealand address you can use for your account registration.

More ideas for fuel savings while road tripping in New Zealand?

Got more tips or ideas on how you save money on fuel while road tripping around New Zealand? Share them in the comments below!

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4x Tips to save money on fuel in New Zealand


First published on: Oct 3, 2018 @ 06:08

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Travel Money & Currency Conversion: We use both Up Bank and Wise for the best currency conversion rates with support for Apple Pay and Android Pay plus excellent in-app customer support while you are travelling.

Flights: We check a few sites for different prices. Travelling from Australia, I always check Qantas directly for reward flights, but otherwise, I check and compare the cost of flights with SkyScanner. It’s always worth checking alternative routes and days, especially where there are multiple stopover options or nearby alternative airports.

Accommodation: We usually book through Agoda as we find their prices are the lowest and cancellation policies + loyalty benefits work out the best. We also use Airbnb from time to time.

Car Rental: We use AutoEurope to compare rental car prices with all the big international brands like Europcar, Budget, Hertz and Avis. We usually end up using Avis or Europcar as they offer the best deals (make sure to check their current offers for bonus discounts) and both maintain their vehicles well with relatively new fleets.

Tours & Activities: We generally try to book activities through one of these third-party sites ViatorGet Your Guide & Klook due to their flexible cancellation policies (saved us a lot of money trying to travel post-COVID) and price guarantees (often better prices than booking direct). We also book through Red Balloon on occasion for more unique Aussie and NZ activities.

Who Am I?

Matt in Noumea

Matt works sort-of full time running his digital marketing business, TerraMedia. In his spare time though, he loves to travel with his wife, so they usually end up doing a lot of it.
Home is Australia, and while they don’t spend all their time travelling the world, Matt and his wife like to take the time to really explore and get to know a place, even if that means spending a lot longer there than normal tourists might.

You can read more about Matt and his story HERE.

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